Leeds Print Workshop member Ria Lake is one of eight artists exhibiting new work at ‘Any work that wanted doing’, disabled artists responding to hidden histories of disabled textile mill workers, an exhibition which brings disabled people’s voices from the past and present together, highlighting their contributions to heritage and contemporary culture.
The exhibition is opening September 2023, at Leeds Industrial Museum and is part of LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture.
We asked Ria to tell us more about her work and the project;
Since October 2022, I have been living in a converted textile mill in Morley. I live in my own flat and am supported to live there by a company that has a contract with adult social care. The building has been integrated into flats with “normal residents” (by this, I mean people without support needs) and disabled and neurodivergent residents.
I find the word integrated very interesting, I like the idea of lots of different people living together and everyone being equal. My building doesn’t say it’s a supported living place on the outside, there are no signs shouting about it. We just want to have “normal” lives like “normal” people without having a label stuck on us everywhere we go, our homes included.
So, I am combining research, photography and screen-printing in a long banner. It will not only be an exploration and reflection on integration where I live, but on society as a whole.
Textile mills have always been a place of integration, where disabled people worked alongside others. This might have not been something that was taken into account by the mill owners of the past, or by the building companies who renovated it for me to live in, but the shadows of this integration continue.
Although the art I make is about my life, I don’t see it as making artwork for myself. I make it so that other people understand my stories and my experiences with the hope that everyone can help to change the broken system that we live in. I’m angry with the government about the constant cuts to benefits and their treatment of vulnerable people like me. Things need to change!
The funding I got for this project has paid for a year’s membership to the Leeds Print Workshop. I usually work from the Pyramid studio but we don’t have lots of printing equipment there. The funding has also paid for supported time in the studio working with technician Carl who has helped me to make my final piece for the exhibition.
I have done a few courses at the Print Workshop in the past, lino printing & experimental screen printing, and really enjoyed them. I am looking forward to coming once a month to the open access days with my Pyramid support artist & print workshop member Alice’.